Libraries, Internet Access and Evolving US Intellectual Property (IP) Law

Libraries, Internet Access and
Evolving US Intellectual Property (IP) Law

On 11/06/2008 "Emily Sheketoff... [Washington Office Executive Director of]... the American Library Association... [spoke on its] positions on federal copyright, privacy, and piracy policy..."

Video segment: How have libraries changed in the last generation?

"...Sadly, we find more and more people haven't been in a library in the last 20 years. They're shocked when they go into a library to see the teen room, to see gaming nights, to see the people lined up for hours waiting to get access to a terminal. Many members of Congress are surprised when they drive by a public library late at night and they see the parking lot full with people sitting in the parking lot on their laptops, making use of the wireless that is available in the public library."

Video segment: What is the impact of the Pro-IP Act on public libraries?

If a library were to embrace the greatest anxieties about the Pro-IP Act, it might prevent its patrons from using its Internet connection to extract and physically export any data from its premises, whether the means was a patron-owned laptop computer attached by the library WiFi WAP (Wireless Access Point), a thumbdrive (holding flash memory) plugged into a library PC, or a digital optical disk created on a library "burner".

Such extreme measures would certainly prevent the communication on library premises (with the library's acquiescence) of illicit matter - like purloined material under copyright protection. But it would simultaneously prevent the communication of completely legitimate material not under copyright debilities - like podcasts, vast government archives, manufacturer-provided sales, use and service manuals, and millions of privately provided free electronic books now distributed via the Internet.

It's no different than the regular old telephone system. Don't want to allow conspirators to use the phone system to plan a bank job? Then, indeed, ending the provision of one more free telephone set will inconvenience them. But it will also inconvenience people who want to call customers, suppliers, study-buddies, friends, and make every other legitimate use of the phone. It's not the end of the world. There doesn't have to be a free public telephone - people can subscribe to service privately, either as individuals or as groups. The same is true for Internet service: the library can shut down all Internet services and let its former patrons simply make up for this absence through private efforts.

And it need not stop with the Internet. If the library circulates traditional books (codices) and serials - or even allows users unchaperoned in-room use of same - patrons can violate copyrights by making unlimited copies using dirt-cheap digital cameras which can take high-quality photos basically for free, which photos can later be displayed on dirt-cheap laptop computers, e-book readers and even cellphones and digital gaming consoles. When copyrights be damned, who says everyone can't read the new Harry Potter book at the same time when the library's single new copy becomes available? We won't even discuss that expensive new college textbook.

This author is not being facetitious. Many long years ago he pointed out that all fixed (non-interactive) abstract artistry - like books, musical records, cinema and so on - would be subject to dirt-cheap reproduction in the forthcoming digital age using simple cheap tools that would become as common as wristwatches and eyeglasses. We have now largely arrived there as I write this. This means that if obviating violation of the Pro IP Act is the trumping (overwhelming) good, libraries should rid themselves not just of Internet connections and optical disks, but of all traditional (printed) material under copyright as well! They have to stop all library (information storage and communications) functions - and simply become community centers if they stay open at all. And of course, even then, they can be the venue where parties meet to illicitly trade materials under copyright in person (rather than over the Internet from any of millions of endpoints), in publically-provided comfort and convenience. Doesn't that make the building itself subject to forfeiture under the Pro-IP Act?

- RF

The JiWire, Inc. ("as of August 17, 2009 275,543 free and pay Wi-Fi locations in 140 countries") listing for the WiFi hotspot at the Buchanan-Haralson Public Library reads as follows:
Buchanan-Haralson Public Library
GA Highway 120 & US Highway 27
145 Courthouse Square
Buchanan, Georgia 30113
United States
Driving directions

Tel: 770-646-3369
Web site for this location

Rate This Wi-Fi Location
from 1 reviews

Overall Ratings [4 of 5 stars]

    * Signal Strength: bad
    * Power Outlets: bad
    * Seating Areas: good
    * Noise Level: good

Wonderful to have free wi-fi, but not always available. Use to be able to use it in parking lot in car, as it was always on; however, since October 2008, it seems to not be turned on during off hours. Sometimes the speed is reasonable, but many times it is very slow.

Posted on 2008-11-14 09:02:00.0

There is an interesting facility called WeFi by which participants use
a provided computer program to update a globally available map of WiFi
hotspots. They claim to have mapped ( ) over
31 MILLION (allegedly unique) such hotspots already. How good is their
methodology? I don't know. Presumably they distinguish hotspots by SSID,
client location and other characteristics. How do they unmap hotspots
which have ceased operation permanently and how do they tell them apart
from those which are only shut off temporarily?

Here are 8/18/2009 results from their map in and near Haralson County,
Georgia, using the default criterion of "ever" (vs. "recently") connected.
Note that not every incorporated city and town is listed, e.g. Buchanan.
This being so, how do they segment their map between different locations?

Ranburne, AL ------------------------------------------------------------------+
Bowdon -------------------------------------------------------------------+    |
Carrollton ----------------------------------------------------------+    |    |
Villa Rica -----------------------------------------------------+    |    |    |
Dallas ----------------------------------------------------+    |    |    |    |
Rockmart ---------------------------------------------+    |    |    |    |    |
Cedartown ---------------------------------------+    |    |    |    |    |    |
Piedmont, AL -------------------------------+    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
Tallapoosa ----------------------------+    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
Bremen ---------------------------+    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
Temple ----------------------+	  |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
			     |	  |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |    |
Total hotpots		     56  286    2   21  155  153 1644  711 1162    5   13
=======================    ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ==== ====
Internet access		     22	  47    1    5   45   21  219  110  188         4
Internet access unknown	     23	 128    1    9   65   85  726  337  475         8
Requires Web sign in	      1	  13              1         2    5    9    4    1
Locked			     10   98         7   44   47  697  259  490    1